last updated September 8, 2021

The Benefits of Drinking Water and How to Do It

by Rob Arthur

Drinking water isn’t the most exciting subject.

However, it can have a tremendous impact on how you look, feel, and perform.

Staying hydrated sounds simple, but many of us don’t do it properly.

This article is all about the benefits of drinking water and how to drink more of it.

If you have any questions after reading, let me know in the comments 🙂

What are the benefits of drinking water?

Water is essential for life.

It acts as a solvent for biochemical reactions and medium for transport, assists in body temperature regulation, and maintains blood volume to support cardiovascular function renal filtration (1).

Proper hydration helps promote skin health, neurological function, gastrointestinal function, and may even help with reaching and maintaining healthy body weight and composition (2).

What are the effects of dehydration?

Dehydration, on the other hand, is tied to a ridiculously long list of health problems (3).

For example, it can play a role in decreased physical performance, disruptions in mood and cognitive function, fatigue, confusion, headache, anger, constipation, and dry skin.

Similarly, dehydration can play a role in bladder and kidney stones, asthma, diabetic hyperglycemia and ketoacidosis, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke .

Dehydration can also be detrimental to athletic performance across a variety of domains.

These include impaired strength, endurance, jumping distance, heart rate recovery, and even tracking objects (4,5,6).

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of drinking water and detriments of dehydration, let’s talk about how much you might want to drink.

How much water should you drink?

Daily water intake recommendations vary, but most fall around 2500 – 3500 ml, or 85 – 100 oz., per day (7).

That includes water from beverages and from moisture in your food.

That said, some suggest hydration recommendations are inferior to simply drinking to thirst (8).

In addition to thirst, you can also keep an eye on how frequently you’re urinating (9).

That said, thirst doesn’t appear to be very reliable during exercise (10).

Elite athletes might consider a hydration strategy based on sweat rate and sodium loss (11).

However, that may be overkill for most of us who just want to look, feel, and perform better.

Aiming to drink one liter (about 33 ounces) of water per hour while training may suffice (12).

Of course, other factors like your climate, activity and fitness levels, and salt intake warrant consideration.

Thus, you may need to tinker a bit to get this figured out for yourself.

What about other drinks like juice, soda, wine, or beer?

While other beverages might be able to help you hydrate, drinking your calories might be something to consider dialing back.

Calories in liquid form don’t have the same compensatory effects on our hunger and satiety signals as solid food (13,14,15).

Thus, they may promote excessive energy intake and weight gain.

Common sources of liquid calories are soft drinks, energy drinks, sweetened (or buttered) coffees, and sweet tea.

Drinks we often think of as “healthy” can sometimes provide a hefty whack of liquid calories.

These include fruit juices, smoothies, meal replacement shakes, milk, and plant-based milk imposters.

Alas, alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, and liquor also may be having a negative effect on your health efforts.

Of course, it’s up to what role any of these drinks play in your diet.

While many of us find that we do better without them, many of us do just fine drinking them regularly.

It’s up to each of us to figure that out for ourselves.

Reading nutrition facts can help you identify potential sources of liquid calories.

That might be a great place to start before swapping things in and out.

How do I start drinking more water?

Some of us have no problem jumping straight into drinking only non-caloric options.

We fill up on water, unsweetened tea, and plain black coffee without batting an eye.

Others of us, however, find changing our hydration habits a bit more challenging.

If that’s you, that’s totally cool.

There are steps you can take to make things easier on yourself.

Consider starting each day with 30 – 40 oz. of plain water immediately upon waking.

You might find this approach to make a dent in your hydration needs earlier in the day.

The head start on hydration might result in legitimate thirst leading you to other (caloric, specifically) options later.

Of course, while this takes care of legitimate thirst, there’s still the hedonic pleasure of sweetened and flavored beverages.

Fortunately, you have options there, too.

You might find flavored carbonated waters like LaCroix, Spindrift, or Waterloo to suit your needs.

These are flavored but not directly sweetened.

If you prefer something a bit more sweet, you might enjoy something like Zevia.

It’s a stevia-sweetened soda alternative.

What to do now

You don’t have to immediately eliminate your favorite drinks to see the benefits of drinking water.

If you’re feeling resistance to change what you drink, that’s totally normal.

You might, however, ask yourself some questions, openly and honestly, without judgement.

Why do you need every sip to blow your mind with sweetness?

Are you turning to drink for entertainment or distraction?

These questions are particularly valuable in reference to alcohol.

What role do those nightly beers, wines, or pours play in your life?

Are they an escape from other life factors you might want to address?

These questions aren’t easy, but they can be quite helpful.

That all being said, only you can decide what approach works best for you.

There’s no need to change everything at once.

If you prefer that approach, that’s totally cool.

Jump on in.

Otherwise, pick just one change you can make today.

Take just one step.

See how it works for you.

Make adjustments, if necessary.

Rinse and repeat.

Start where you are.

Do what you can.

You’ve got this.


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